Out & About Magazine Autumn 2020

George Hedges (left) drove many village outings, including this one from Peasemore in the late 1940s. The bus was a special wartime utility Bedford OWB with wooden slatted seats

When life depended on a country bus A new book Reliance Motor Services: The Story of a Family-Owned Independent Bus Company chronicles the life and times of a local bus company. Written and researched by the founder George Hedges’ grandson Barrie Hedges, alongside friend and bus enthusiast David Wilder, it takes the reader back to a bygone age when buses ruled the roads

I magine for a moment life in a village on the Berkshire Downs north of Newbury at the time of the First World War. Local people rarely ventured outside their own little communities – and when they did, it was usually on foot or horseback. Newbury’s shops were often accessed for you by a horse-drawn carrier who would fetch what you needed beyond what the village shop could offer. Fast forward to the 1950s and, with another terrible war behind them, people in those same villages were mobile; travelling to work at one of the ‘atomics’ at Harwell or Aldermaston, or to jobs at factories in Newbury. Children were often going to school further afield. Leisure time now took in the cinemas and dance halls ‘in town’, and a day trip to the seaside or

London was within people’s greatly-expanded horizons.

Newbury area through its various services and had become one of the UK’s most respected independent coach operators with a massive ‘reach’. Reliance decamped from Brightwalton in 1963 to set up its headquarters in Boundary Road, Newbury. At one point, it ran a fleet of nearly 40 vehicles from there, while providing jobs for several generations of drivers, conductresses and engineers. The Reliance story is now told in a book written by George’s grandson, Barrie Hedges and his own school until his recent retirement a senior manager with Newbury & District. As former Newbury Weekly News reporter Barrie freely admits: “The book could not have happened without David. days friend, David Wilder, a self-confessed ‘bus nutter’ and

The agent for change was the country bus, and in the case of the gaggle of villages north of Newbury that meant Reliance Motor Services. Brought into being as a horse-drawn carrier by James Hedges at Brightwalton in 1917, it grew through a further three generations of his family, starting with elder son George through the 20s, 30s and 40s. George’s own sons, Alan, Gordon and Colin, took over in the 50s, with Alan’s son, Gordon, joining them in the early 60s. Admin was guided over many years by George’s daughters Audrey and Olive. Along its road, Reliance carried the communities it supported progressively further and faster. By the time the company closed in 1985, it was serving the whole of the

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